When Daniella Jackson was diagnosed with cancer at five months pregnant her doctors quickly advised her to have an abortion.
They said she needed a termination to allow her lung tumour to be removed before it killed her. But the 21-year-old, who is a devout Roman Catholic, refused, saying she felt too close to her unborn child.
A year on, she is the proud mother of Rennae – her second child – and has been told that she is free of cancer. Yesterday she said: ‘I was always determined to have my baby. I felt such a close bond with her, I couldn’t let her go.’
Aborting her child was never an option because of her strong faith, Miss Jackson insisted. For several months she had been having breathing problems but her condition got out of control when she went down with a fever on the break near Blackpool.
The couple went to a doctor who, fearing a blood clot, referred Miss Jackson to casualty.
There she was given an X-ray, an ultrasound scan and finally a CT scan, which revealed the four centimetre (1.5in) tumour.
Despite the shocking news, she said she was determined not to heed the advice given to her by doctors at the Royal Preston Hospital that she should have an abortion to save her own life. ‘I was crying and so was my partner,’ she recalled. ‘I thought it was the end for me and my baby.
‘I felt like a ticking timebomb. I had nightmares about dying in labour. It was a bad time, my head was all over the place. ‘I just shut down and tried to get through as best as I could.’
Toward the end of her pregnancy, Miss Jackson’s lung disease was giving her asthma attacks on a daily basis. But she managed to battle on and, four months ago, gave birth four weeks early to Rennae, who weighed in at 6lb 3oz.
The life-saving operation took place four weeks later and saw the removal of half of her lung. Now recovering at home, she says she wants to tell her story so that others realise that a disease like lung cancer can affect anyone – even young non-smokers like herself.
Doctors said the onset of cancer in the case of Miss Jackson, who comes from Nottingham, was more likely to be caused by genetics rather than any lifestyle factors.
‘If this can happen to me, it can happen to anyone,’ said the full- time mother. ‘People need to know this isn’t just an old person’s disease. I kept fit, I never smoked, and my world fell apart when I got this disease.
‘I’m just so thankful I have a future with my children and I’m surviving.’ She added: ‘Abortion is not part of my belief as a Catholic. Religion was part of my decision. I wanted to fight for my baby.’
Her surgeon, Antonio Martin-Ucar, said she was the youngest patient he had operated on with her type of lung cancer.
‘It was an unusual case,’ he added. ‘She was very young. We had to make the difficult decision to only remove the tumour once she’d had her baby.’
Miss Jackson’s first child, a son, is four-year-old Darnelle.